“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” is an electrifying musical that tells the inspiring and tragic true story of Buddy Holly, the rock ‘n’ roll icon. With classic songs and stellar performances, this show is a great time!
We all know that I love a good musical. I was raised on musicals, I continue to listen to them in my daily life, and my children have never known a world without musical theater.
But while I am a musical fanatic, I am a pretty typical Gen Xer, so the information that I knew about Buddy Holly I could count on two fingers. First, I was pretty sure he’d sung the classic “Peggy Sue,” which I was mostly familiar with because of the movie Peggy Sue Got Married.
Second, I knew that he tragically died in the same plane crash as Ritchie Valens, which I learned from the movie La Bamba. That was it. So, going into the Marriott Theatre’s new production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, I had no specific expectations.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is the story of Buddy Holly’s rise to fame and marriage over approximately 3 years, but really, it’s a Buddy Holly concert. This fast paced-musical includes 25 songs and runs a continuous 95 minutes with no intermission.
Between various hits like, “That’ll Be The Day,” “Oh Boy, “Shout,” “La Bamba,” and “Chantilly Lace,” the show covers moments of Buddy signing a large contract, his relationship with his bandmates (The Crickets), his whirlwind love story and marriage, and his death at only 22 years old.
The entire cast and crew are excellent in this production. From the voices to the energy to the fact that the vast majority of the cast play their own instruments, your attention is captured throughout the show.
But the magic in this particular production lives in Kieran McCabe’s portrayal of Buddy Holly. This star-making turn as a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer is sincere, magnetic, and swoon-worthy. Mr. McCabe’s Holly sang, played the guitar, drums, and piano, and lived to play and create music. You rarely see an actor fall into a role such that you can’t find the actor at all, but this was one of those times. This is a performance not to be missed.
I will admit that during the first half an hour of the show, I enjoyed it, but I hadn’t connected. I found myself liking the music, but also looking around at the audience to see their reactions. There were so many people clapping to themselves, bopping their heads, and mouthing the lyrics that it made me happy to see their joy.
And then something happened to me. During an appearance at the Apollo Theater, where Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the first white act to play the venue, the band got “on stage.” Buddy turns to the audience, vulnerably takes the microphone in hand, and says, “I hope you like my music. I hope my music is enough.” That was the moment I fell in love with and understood Buddy Holly.
By the end, audience members of all ages were up on their feet – including me – because the last part of the show is legitimately a rock concert and an incredible amount of fun.
If you aren’t familiar with Buddy Holly’s music or his life, don’t let that stop you from seeing this entertaining show. It moves quickly, the performers are fun, engaged, and multi-talented, and you will be able to appreciate this icon who died far too young.
Marriott Theatre: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story Chicago Review – Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is playing at Marriott Theatre through 8/13/2023. Tickets can be purchased through Goldstar or by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.